It’s become quite clear that the movement to abolish the death penalty has reached Virginia. Death penalty opponents have suggested replacing it with life without parole (LWOP). They advocate for it as a more humane alternative to execution. That it’s “punishment enough.” Except you shouldn’t believe that death penalty opponents will keep LWOP. Recent legislation in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Vermont is seeking to end LWOP, using the exact same arguments that have been used against the death penalty. “Few civilized countries have LWOP, it’s too harsh,” et cetera. 

The movement to abolish the death penalty has always been a movement of goalposts, as opponents (who have suggested LWOP) as an alternative, are using the very same arguments they used against the death penalty, to advocate for the removal of the very same alternative punishment that they suggested in the first place! Vox News and The Sentencing Project are now promoting the abolition of LWOP, and in June, the Attorney General of Vermont urged legislators there to ban LWOP entirely.

The death penalty should stay in Virginia, not just because some crimes are just so heinous, but because it also prevents the abolition of life without parole. Earlier this year, several murderers (including a man sentenced to life for a double-murderer) were paroled. Of course, criminal justice reform is important, but the death penalty should not be eliminated. Because if it’s eliminated, the next step is the abolition of LWOP. And murderers may eventually walk free.

Daniel Garcia 

McLean, VA

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